Newly inaugurated Virginia Governor Youngkin is off to a good start. He’s making good on his campaign promises and that is not going over well with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. What was it that Barack Obama, her former boss, was fond of saying? Elections have consequences.
Psaki used her personal Twitter account to slap back at Youngkin when it was announced that he signed an executive order that allows parents to opt out of school face mask mandates. Psaki, the mother of two young children, tweeted her approval when the school district in which her family lives immediately announced its intention to ignore the governor’s order. The Arlington school district sent out word that it would keep its mask mandate in schools. Psaki tweeted her support.
Hi there. Arlington county parent here (don’t believe you are @GlennYoungkin but correct me if I am wrong). Thank you to @APSVirginia for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant. https://t.co/6UeNIYoZCU
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) January 17, 2022
It reads to me as an oddly worded tweet in how she addresses Youngkin kind of passive-aggressively but she’s the communications expert, not me. What she did is typical of many who object to Republican leaders putting orders in place that allow parents the freedom to make choices for their own children. In this case, it’s over schoolchildren wearing face masks for the duration of their school day. Youngkin isn’t saying that children can’t wear face masks if that is what the parents decide, just that the school district can’t mandate the use of face masks for children. Democrats think of their children as government subjects, not children of their parents.
The order from Youngkin, whose victory was powered in part by parents fed up with coronavirus mandates and lockdowns, does not prevent students from wearing masks in schools, as some progressives have argued at times. Rather, it allows them to opt out if they choose: “The parents of any child enrolled in a elementary or secondary school or a school based early childcare and educational program may elect for their children not to be subject to any mask mandate in effect at the child’s school or educational program.”
It’s a straight forward statement but leave it to a member of the Biden administration to play politics. Psaki is emboldened by her petty, partisan boss and thinks it is perfectly normal to use her own Twitter account to slam the new governor, a Republican who defeated the Democrat her boss, Joe Biden, campaigned for along with her former boss Barack Obama. Democrats still haven’t gotten the message that parents have the final say for their kids, not teacher unions or school districts. That lesson was a huge driving force in Youngkin’s election victory.
What exactly Youngkin will do to counter school districts like Arlington’s who are determined to defy his order is not clear yet. He threatened to use state resources but he didn’t give specifics. In other states, like Texas, the governor’s orders on mandates become subjects for court battles against the Democrats who run large cities. Democrats like the power they’ve received during the pandemic and don’t want to relinquish any of it now. The governor said he wants school districts to take a few days and listen to parents. The school districts that immediately jumped out against the governor’s order apparently didn’t get that message.
Hours after the governor signed the executive order, several major Virginia school districts, including Fairfax County Public Schools, Arlington Public Schools, and Prince William County Public Schools announced there would be no change to their mandates. Youngkin, in comments to WTOP on Sunday, was clear he would push back.
“It is clear under law that parents have a fundamental right to make decisions for their children’s upbringing, their education, and their care, and so we are providing parents an opt-out, providing them the ability to make the right decision for their child with regards to their child’s well-being,” Youngkin said. “We are going to use all the authority that I have to consider all options to protect that right.”
In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said, “The governor will consider all options available and all tools at his disposal to ensure parents can make decisions about their children’s upbringing, education, and care.”
Virginia Lt. Governor Winsome Sears said that the governor is considering the option of withholding state funds from school districts that defy the order issued on day one of the new administration.
Virginia Lt. Gov. @WinsomeSears says @GlennYoungkin may withold state education money from school districts that defy his Executive Order making masking optional. So far, Fairfax, Arlington and Richmond have said their mask mandates will stay in place.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) January 17, 2022
Conservatives pushed back on Psaki’s tweet, including former Hot Air writer Mary Katharine Ham.
“I have read the order and Jen is welcome to do for her child as she pleases,” CNN’s Mary Katharine Ham tweeted. “Given that the effective masks are fitted N95s, she definitely doesn’t need to worry about my kids if her kid has the good gear.”
“Jen, if for some reason you want to mask your children, you are still free to do so. This isn’t a ban on masks, this is a ban on *forced masking* of children against other parents’ wishes,” Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway wrote.
Townhall’s Guy Benson spoke truth to power.
Youngkin is Governor. He beat your candidate. Data shows forced masking of kids doesn’t make schools safer, but there are established downsides for students to wearing them. If you want your kid to wear one forever, that’s your prerogative. Other parents disagree. https://t.co/r7p9mV3wLI
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 17, 2022
Psaki found herself in hot water during the gubernatorial campaign when she declared during a White House press briefing that she and others in the White House were “doing everything” they could to help Youngkin’s opponent Terry McAuliffe win the election. An ethics complaint was filed after that remark.
Psaki was hit with an ethics complaint in October when she appeared to advocate for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, saying, “We’re going to do everything we can to help former Governor McAuliffe, and we believe in the agenda he’s representing.” An ethics watchdog said Psaki’s comments appeared to have violated the Hatch Act, which forbids officials from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”
She can still mask up her children if she wants to but other parents are free to follow the science. The data shows it is not helpful for children to be in masks for the length of a school day. It is especially harmful for children with disabilities. We now know that cloth masks are not at all effective in mitigating the coronavirus, in particular the Omicron variant that is so widespread.